Elizabeth Mayer: Sex Work, 2013

Call in sick to work. (Conjunctivitis is going around.) Use the last of your three personal days, even though it is only October and flu season has just begun. Tell two friends where you are going. Time, location, what time you will text them after. Walk to the office building downtown, ancient, with curving cornices, a place where founding fathers must have once played out their kinks. Bypass the front desk, as you have been instructed, and take the stairs. Knock at the large white door with the gold nameplate, and, when acknowledged, step inside. Sit where you’re told. Look where you’re told: away. Listen as he tells you the rules. Listen as he explains your renumeration. Listen as he defines his wants. Try to avert your eyes from his high-backed desk chair. Focus on a slim triangle of light falling through a crack in the drawn curtains. Try not to falter when he says go. Go. Go! Spin a homoerotic rape fantasy with your mouth. Imagine into the room a rough-handed lumberjack. Try not to wince at the overwrought cliché. Throw your voice. Do the characters. (This is why the children love it when you read.) Ignore the flapping sound and fierce hand motions coming from his lap. Let your mind wander. Contemplate what a dick Holden Caulfield was for calling his big brother a prostitute just because he wrote screenplays instead of books. Imagine J.D. Salinger alone and drunk in his writing shed ignoring his real-life family for the Glass family. Imagine Cheever drunk in the suburbs writing all those goddamn beautiful stories and still being miserable and hating himself just for being bisexual. Imagine what you could write if you didn’t have to spend all your time working. Listen as the flapping quickens. Reach into your throat for the voice of the lumberjack. Decide against making slapping sound effects, palm on thigh. Bring the story to a crescendo. Listen for his guttural grunt, rodential sigh, an ending. Walk to the desk. Keep your eyes on the carpet. Take the envelope from the desk. Get out. Feel the soft warmth of the sun on your face. Open the envelope and feel the crisp weight of two Ben Franklins. Marvel at what you made in less than an hour, the same amount you make in half a week as a Pre-K instructional aid. A block away, text your two friends. Safe. Done. Buy groceries. Buy toilet paper. Buy a few more days of the internet. Buy a pack of pull-ups for your three-year-old daughter, who still drinks a cup of milk each night before bed (a substitute for your flesh), so that when you and she awake in the morning in the queen bed that you share, your skin will not ache and chafe against rough wet sheets, you will not hurt, neither she nor you, you will be dry, you will be safe, you will be warm and fed.

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